Yogurt Making

It's time to take a little break from plant propagation. "NOOOO!" you may cry. Never fear--there's plenty more coming up over the next few weeks. But today I'm sharing how we make yogurt at home. As we're a goat farm all our yogurt is made of goat's milk, but the process I'll share works well with cow's milk too.

What You'll Need:
-Milk (raw or pasteurized)
-Yogurt culture (heirloom or commercial)
-2 pots
-1 liter container with lid

Yogurt making is super easy, requires little actual work time, is ready within about 8 hours, and produces a storeable product that can be kept without refrigeration for several weeks. It is, or course, a traditional method of dairy preservation.

We begin by milking our goats and straining the raw milk through a cheesecloth lined strainer--most of you at home will be able to skip this step. Then we need to heat the raw milk to 165' F. Raw milk is loaded with tons of healthy bacteria which we normally love, but when making yogurt we want to make sure that the culture's bacteria are not overwhelmed by all the other bacteria present in the milk. Especially when using a heirloom culture--which is reused over time--we take care not to dilute the culture down with other bacteria present in milk. If you're starting with pasteurized milk you can skip this step too.

Regardless of the type of milk or culture you are using, yogurt making always follows the same general process: heat the milk to 115-120'F, inoculate with culture and mix well, store in a warm, insulated space for 6-12 hours while yogurt ferments. When we make our yogurt, we use a ration of 1 tablespoon culture per liter of milk. The heated milk and culture are stored in a plastic pitcher with a lid that is then placed in a cooler with hot water added to keep up the temperature. 6 to 8 hours later we come back to delicious, fresh yogurt! 

A word on cultures: We mention above that there are heirloom and commercial cultures. You can purchase heirloom varieties at sites such as Cultures for Health, which carries a large variety of cultures. The advantage of this type is that it can be reused--simply use some of the yogurt you make with it as the culture for your next batch. Heirloom cultures can last for years or even generations with the proper care. If you do not have an heirloom culture, you can still easily make yogurt at home. Just pop to the store and pick up a good quality, additive-free organic yogurt and use it as your culture. You will not be able to use the yogurt you make as a future culture, however, you will need to buy a new one each time.

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